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Pressure, Perspective and Passion or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Design Process

There is this theory floating around about the work ethic of America-based professionals, that life is all work no play – yet often times when I tell people I am a designer they dismiss the profession, likening us to artists or craftsmen. People often relate only to the visual aspect of the job, considering it more akin to – all play no work – which is not the case at all.


In recent years, expectations of our profession have risen – now more than ever there is great pressure for designers to know all. Our roles have expanded, not only are we designers, but psychologists, business strategists, engineers, trend analysts and storytellers.

In addition, our accountability now reaches deep beyond our craft to our community, our peers, ourselves, our global market, the environment, end-users, and clients. Our role has evolved to encompass all that is and all that will ever be. We are futurists, innovators, movers and ambassadors.

Design is everywhere and expectations, both client and consumer, are much higher. The competition has also grown – Designers in Asia are improving and with TV shows such as Top Design and American Inventor, it seems everyone is a designer these days.

This makes for a lot of work…at times that can be overwhelming, but great beauty can be found in intensity. In the world of today’s designer, pressure should not be viewed as a detriment, but rather as vital a tool for success. Absorbing outside influences allows us to expand our minds, to feed our creativity and enhance our abilities. It keeps us on our toes. Many of the world’s best ideas are born of high-pressure situations.

That said, what is the best way to deal with this immense pressure and use it effectively to our benefit?


Fortunately for us, the role of the designer not only exists in the realm of what is possible, but also, in what can be imagined. It’s visionary thinking after all that moves our industry forward. So, how can we focus on creating a vision with so much going on around us? As designers we are always “on”, but it’s okay to flip the switch every once in while. Taking a step back can help us gain much-needed perspective.

To illustrate – recently we were approached to work on a concept project for a long-standing client. When we began we could only see what lay directly in front of us – the scope of the project. It was time-sensitive with incredible deadlines, the pressure to perform and succeed mounted, how could we achieve the results we wanted and that our client deserved?

I immediately threw myself into the project, working round the clock to try and grind out a result. As the pressure grew to unbearable proportions I decided to take refuge in a local movie theater – using distraction as a tool to refocus. By taking a step back I was able to gain perspective; to achieve a greater sense of clarity and vision. The process of getting there, previously rooted in apprehension was repackaged in emotion and enthusiasm. In this frame of mind I was able to look beyond the immediate pressures and see the result.


A strong vision gives us something to connect to moving forward. Picturing a great end result fosters an emotional connection to our work, it instills passion in the project that helps us cope with pressures moving forward. This type of passion ultimately results in great design. Furthermore, if you develop an emotional connection to your design, consumers are more likely to do the same.

Traditionally we are taught to think about things in big picture terms, to consider the end product only as it relates to the whole. But sometimes it’s helpful to grab the remote and skip to the end for a moment: Picture a fabulous result in your mind’s eye and hold onto that vision. By creating a vision at the beginning, one that is constant and unwavering, we can transform the pressures of our profession into an inspiring force that allows us to enjoy the ride and ultimately create great design.

If all else fails…catch a movie!

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